Sex & Relationships

Here's what to say to someone who got cheated on.
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11 Things To Say To Someone Who Just Found Out They Were Cheated On

Non-judgmental compassion is the best approach.

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If you've ever been cheated on, then you know just how violating and devastating that experience can feel. So if your friend or family member is going through the same thing, you probably want to offer some words of comfort. Knowing what to say to someone who got cheated on can make all the difference. Because the person who was cheated on is in a vulnerable place, it’s important to make sure your words of support are well-received.

Although it can be a life-altering shock, cheating is not uncommon, and no relationship is totally immune to it. Responding to your loved one with care and compassion is key. “In short, to be helpful, focus on being understanding and showing support rather than pushing advice or making judgmental statements that might make someone's pain even worse,” Jason B. Whiting, Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper. Also, hold off on any immediate plans for revenge against the person who cheated. “If your first instinct is to let your friend know that you never liked their partner anyways and that they are better off without them, you are falling victim to idiot compassion,” Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon, licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, tells Romper. Idiot compassion refers to a situation where your advice may be well-meaning but is ultimately unhelpful.

“Opt instead for wise compassion,” Solomon says. “Practicing wise compassion is about loving your friend without hating their partner. It is about staying present to their pain instead of rescuing them, problem-solving for them, or telling them what this means to them.” Although this more mature take is far from easy, here’s what you can say to a loved one whose relationship has just hit the fan.

1

"What Do You Need Right Now?"

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Ask questions first. “Go meta. Going meta means asking your friend about what they feel like they need before you just start doing stuff for them,” says Solomon. Some people would benefit from a night out, while others may want to watch Netflix with you and have a good cry. Let your friend set the tone.

“However, they may be so disoriented that they might not even know what they need in the moment,” Natalia Juarez, breakup coach with Lovistics, tells Romper. She suggests providing them with some examples of things you could do: “Do they want a quiet night in to talk and cry out their feelings, do they want to go out and distract themselves from their pain, or do they want to be alone?”

2

"Whatever You're Feeling Is OK And Normal."

People coming to terms with a cheating issue may feel like their emotions are all out of whack. “In the early stages of discovering you’ve been cheated on and betrayed, it’s common to feel disoriented and to have conflicting feelings,” says Juarez. It's normal to feel everything from disbelief to total pain from cheating. Give your friend the space to start processing these confusing responses. “It’s helpful to encourage your friend not to force or rush themselves to make sense of things or try to think ‘logically,’” Juarez adds. “That will all come, in due time, but right now their main focus should be on their own self-care and self-preservation.”

3

"This Isn't About You."

When you've been cheated on, it's easy to blame yourself. Cheating can wreck your self-esteem in so many ways. That's why it's important to reassure your friend that the infidelity is not necessarily a reflection of their character, attractiveness, or personality. It may not be about the faithful partner at all.

“It can be a welcomed shift in perspective to discuss about all the times your friend’s partner did something questionable or shady,” Cherlyn Chong, breakup and dating specialist from Steps to Happyness, tells Romper. “All those little details can be of great comfort when telling a good friend that it really isn’t about them,” she continues, “When an avalanche of previously ignored red flags comes out, it’s pretty hard to completely blame yourself. Logic will win your friend over in this case.”

4

"You Don't Have To Make Any Big Decisions Now."

Your friend may be wrestling with some big choices now, especially whether to stay in the relationship or leave, but these life-changing decisions can wait for a little while. As tempting as it may be, try to hold off on giving your two cents right now. “It is disturbing to hear of pain and betrayal, and friends often react with strong emotions and advice, like: ‘You need to leave now,’ or, ‘Let's get you with someone better.’ However, in most relationship problems, victims benefit from support rather than force, which has the effect of silencing them or disrespecting their agency,” says Whiting. Remind your friend that there is plenty of time to process everything, and they don't have to make any major life-changing decisions right this moment.

Cheating is a complicated issue that differs for every relationship. The person who gets cheated on doesn't have to immediately dump the other person. “Your friend will need time to think through things, hear from their partner, and consult their loved ones on what to do. So, it’s best to be supportive and let them decide at their own pace,” says Chong. But they aren't obligated to stay put, either.

5

"I'm Here."

Opt for some emotional realness instead of platitudes. “When we speak from a place of wise compassion, what we say is empathic: ‘This is really hard;’ ‘I can see how much you are hurting;’ ‘I am so sorry you’re going through this;’ ‘I’m here,’” says Solomon. This is so much more meaningful than saying, “Everything happens for a reason” or something along those lines.

6

"You Will Be OK."

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They might not believe it right now, but it's true. “Reminding your friend of the future — that they do have the strength to be just fine — can give that bit of hope they desperately need,” Chong tells Romper. “Sometimes people need a way forward, and you simply believing in their ability to bounce back can mean the world to them during a very difficult time.”

7

"Let Me Know If I Can Do Anything For You."

After an affair, the person who got cheated on may feel empty, irritated, or even ashamed of the event. “Many feel like the world has crumbled beneath them,” notes Chong. “They pick apart every single detail of their own relationship and the third party, wanting to find out in what way the new person was better than them. Some see red, and they use that anger to get back at the third party, blaming and shaming them for the affair.”

Anything you can say to provide reassurance can mean so much. If your friend wants your help committing some act of vandalism against the cheater, well, maybe don't do that. But if you're able to sit through a crying session or offer up your couch for a night, then you're the best.

8

"Here, I Brought You Ice Cream."

Bring your friend some of their favorite treat. Nothing can instantly take away the pain of cheating, but a glass of wine or a scoop of their favorite ice cream certainly doesn't hurt. “Comfort food paired with a comforting friend is always a godsend when the days just feel a bit too hard to get through,” Chong tells Romper. “It feels good to just say ‘heck it’ and dig into a cold, delicious pint without judgment.”

9

“Let’s Go Out For A Movie.”

Plan a friend date to help cheer them up. A movie night with popcorn and snacks might not take the hurting away, but it can help ease their sorrows for a bit. “Sometimes people don’t want to talk, and for that, a good movie, preferably a comedy, can help take their mind off things and remind them that the world isn’t so bleak,” Chong suggests. “When the world seems to have crumbled beneath your friend, it’s important to maintain that bit of normalcy.”

10

“Let’s Figure This Out Together.”

Your friend really just needs to hear that you are there for them no matter what. You support them and will help them through this time in whatever way they might need. “Two heads are better than one, after all,” notes Chong. “You’re showing that you truly care, and that this devastating journey of recovery might not be so devastating with your support.”

11

“Have You Thought About Talking To A Therapist? I’ll Help You Make The Appointment.”

As much being there as a friend helps, there’s only so much you can do. “Some things are simply beyond us to fix, and for that, get in a professional,” Chong says. If they need to see a therapist, they will be much more likely to go if they have help dealing with the logistics of scheduling the appointment. “It can help knowing that [the appointment is] there should they need it, and all they need to do is attend it,” Chong adds.

While you could pick from any of these encouraging words for someone who has been cheated on to cheer up your friend, the most important thing you can do is simply be there for them and let them know you have their back. Cheating is a devastating situation, and your friend can use all the support and love they can get.

Experts:

Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, author

Jason B. Whiting, Ph.D., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, researcher, relationship blogger, and author

Cherlyn Chong, breakup and dating specialist from Steps to Happyness

Natalia Juarez, breakup coach with Lovistics

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